The Nativity of Our Lord + John 1:1-14 + December 25, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn #102 Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful
Hymn #105 Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men
Hymn #98 Of the Father's Love Begotten


Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. (Psalm 98:1–4)

Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.
His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Collect for the Nativity of Our Lord

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that the new birth of Thine Only-Begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held in the old bondage under the yoke of sin; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 

Isaiah 7:10-14
Hebrews 1:1-12
John 1:1-14

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 1)         St. Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” While that is the will of God for us every day, we ought to rejoice all the more on this day of our Lord’s nativity. The child born to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a special child in that He is given from God not just to Mary but to all mankind. It is as the prophet Isaiah foretold in his ninth chapter, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The child that is born for us, this Son that is given to us is no mere child, just as His birth is no ordinary birth. This child who comes into the world is God’s Son and God Himself. The child born of the Virgin Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manager is God the Word, the one of whom St. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word is eternal, being with God from the beginning. The Word was God, John says. He does not say that the Word became God, or that the Word was created by God in the beginning to stand alongside God or next to God. The Word was not fashioned like the rest of creation. The Word simply was. He has always existed, being eternally generated from the God the Father in a way that is ineffable and indescribable and unfathomable to our finite minds. The Word is intrinsic to God’s nature. Paul describes Him in a similar fashion in this morning’s Epistle lesson. He is “the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). As light without brightness is not light, so God without the Word cannot be, for “the Word was God.” Nor could a created being ever suffice to be God’s radiance and brightness, nor could a creature ever faithfully reflect the invisible God as the “express image of His person.”

2)         This is the One who is born in human flesh on this day. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The eternal Word of God, the brightness of the everlasting Light, the One by whom all things were made that were made, comes into the world through the womb of the Virgin Mary. In Him we see “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” So the One born of Mary is eternal Word of the Father, brightness of the Father’s light, and the Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten before all worlds, God from God, light from light, very God from very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. The Son born of Mary is therefore the Only-Begotten Son of God. This is why we ought to doubly rejoice on this day: The Son of God becomes a Son of Man. He does not become flesh by changing from God into man, so that He ceases to be God, nor does He become a third thing, a hybrid of God and Man. The Word became flesh, that is, the eternal Word wrapped Himself in human flesh and clothed Himself with our full humanity in the womb of Mary.  As St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, Christ, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). The Word becomes flesh. The whole human existence. Human body. Human soul. To do this, He empties Himself of all divine prerogative and condescends to live a fully human life, hungering, thirsting, being tempted, growing weary, and even suffering and dying in the flesh. He becomes like us in every aspect, except that He is without sin. He assumes a full humanity, body and soul, a whole humanity, so that He might save every part of our humanity.

3)         The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He doesn’t do this out of necessity, as if His nature drove Him to become man. He doesn’t assume human flesh to be a tourist among us to see what its like to be man. Everything the eternal Word does is for us and our salvation. The Son of God becomes a Son of Man so that all men who believe in Him might become sons of God. Mankind rebelled against God the Lord in the Garden of Eden and that sin of Adam and Eve is passed on through every successive generation, so that all are sinners and therefore all continue in sin. Adam and Eve’s transgression brought corruption into their souls and death to their bodies. The corruption of sin infects everyone throughout human history who is born in the natural way, of the seed of woman and the seed of man. Death, which is the earned wage of sin, stalks all humanity, a fact which we are all too familiar with in our own lives. We die because we sin. We sin because we are born of the line of Adam and Eve. Without a gracious God to intervene, all humanity would be lost in sin, death, and remain forever in the thralldom of the devil. This is the reason for the incarnation, the enfleshment, of the eternal Son of God. In love for His creation, God the Father would not allow the creation to languish in sin and its corruption. In compassion for poor sinners, God the Father sends God the Son into world to redeem the world. In mercy, God the Father sends God the Son to become flesh so that through Him, all flesh might made incorruptible and taste everlasting life once again. “For God so love the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son” to become flesh, to become man, to redeem man from sin and death.

4)         We rejoice in this incarnation of the eternal Son of God because by it, He becomes our brother in this life, made like us every way, excepting sin. And as our brother in the flesh He does what Adam and all sons of Adam are unable to do. He becomes like us in every way, excepting sin, so that He might suffer and die in your place to atone for our sin. Paul says again that “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). God the Son was made a little lower than the angels, meaning He was made man so that He might suffer and “taste death for everyone.” He tastes death upon the cross for all mankind to atone for the sins of the all mankind. For “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The sacrifice of a mere man could never suffice to pay the debt of even that man’s sin. The death of a creature, someone created by God, would never suffice as the propitiation for the sins of the entire world. Therefore it must be God’s blood that is spilled and God’s death as payment for men’s sins. This is why He becomes flesh, so that He might suffer in the flesh for all your sins, die in the flesh for all your transgressions, and atone for the corruption which sin has brought about in your flesh to do away with all of it.

5)         That atonement which the incarnate God wins upon the cross He then gives to all who believe in His Gospel. This atonement acquired by God the Son through His innocent, bitter sufferings and death, is presented to you in the Gospel and is received by faith. St. John writes, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” There will always be men who reject the Gospel and cast it aside in unbelief. Those who do not believe the Gospel will not be justified before God. Their sins are not forgiven because they disbelieve the Gospel. But all who receive the Him in the Gospel and believe that in Christ God is gracious to them and desires to forgive their sins, they have as they believe.

6)         Faith is what grabs hold of the gifts Christ wins for us in the flesh. Faith is how we receive the promise of the Gospel that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By faith we receive the forgiveness of all of our sins, eternal life, and the adoption as sons, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). This is what St. John means when he writes, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” Through faith in Christ and His atonement – that His work is for me and my salvation – that is what makes one a child of God. This means that the Son of God became man so that all who believe in Him might become sons of God and enjoy all the blessings of divine sonship. Faith makes you into a Son of God, not in the same way that Christ is the Son of God. He is the Son of God by nature and essence. But you are sons of God through faith, adopted into the heavenly family. In this adoption Christ gives you the forgiveness of all your sins. By faith He gives you a new, incorruptible heart in which the Triune God dwells. Because you are a son of God by faith, you share in all the divine blessings which Christ has by nature, so that you are a joint-heir with Christ of His heavenly innocence, righteousness and blessedness.

7)         This is why rejoice at the incarnation of the Son of God. God the Son takes on our flesh to purify human flesh from the corruption of sin. He tastes death for us so that all who believe His Gospel will have life even though they die. This is the reason we join with angel choirs and praise God for His great work of salvation. God the Word becomes man to suffer and die to atone for our sins so that when we believe that our sins are forgiven, they are no more. This is why we rush to Bethlehem with the shepherds to “see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15). God the Son becomes man so that all who believe in Him might become sons of God by faith, sons that enjoy all the eternal inheritance of Christ for our salvation and His eternal glory. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” But rejoice especially today that Christ has assume our flesh and made us, by faith, into Sons of God. Amen. 

May the peace of God which passes human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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